Friday, September 21, 2018

The Living Dead

Spring Poems

It's Spring Equinox here in the Southern Hemisphere, and I was looking for a poem to read tomorrow at a celebration of this event. Many of the ones I found were clearly written about the Northern Hemisphere; you can tell by the kinds of trees mentioned, for instance. And/or I thought them unsuitable because they were couched in very old-fashioned (to us) language. But I liked these.

Very Early Spring  
by Katherine Mansfield

The fields are snowbound no longer;
There are little blue lakes and flags of tenderest green.
The snow has been caught up into the sky--
So many white clouds--and the blue of the sky is cold.
Now the sun walks in the forest,
He touches the boughs and stems with his golden fingers;
They shiver, and wake from slumber.
Over the barren branches he shakes his yellow curls.
Yet is the forest full of the sound of tears....
A wind dances over the fields.
Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter,
Yet the little blue lakes tremble
And the flags of tenderest green bend and quiver. 

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), better known for her short stories, was a New Zealander but for most of her adult life preferred to live in London. Sadly, her life was ended by tuberculosis at the age of 34. 

A Spring Sonnet 
by Arthur Henry Adams

Last night beneath the mockery of the moon
I heard the sudden startled whisperings
Of wakened birds settling their restless wings;
The North-east brought his word of gladness, "Soon!"
And all the night with wonder was a-swoon.
A soul had breathed into long-dreaming things;
Some unseen hand hovered above the strings:
Some cosmic chord had set the earth in tune.
And when I rose I saw the Bay arrayed
In her grey robe against the coming heat.
A pulse awoke within the stirring street–
The wattle-gold upon the pavements thrown,
And through the quiet of the colonnade
The smoky perfume of boronia blown. 

Arthur Adams (1872-1936) was another New Zealander, whose career in journalism also took him to Australia, China and London. He was a playwright and novelist as well, and for a time private secretary and literary adviser to the Sydney theatre manager, J.C. Williamson. Later he was for some years editor of 'The Red Page' (literary gossip and opinions) of the famous Sydney journal, The Bulletin.

Spring Night In Lo-Yang Hearing A Flute 
by Li Po

In what house, the jade flute that sends these dark notes drifting,
scattering on the spring wind that fills Lo-yang?
Tonight if we should hear the willow-breaking song,
who could help but long for the gardens of home?

Li Po (701-762) was a Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty (also known as Li Bai, Li Pai, Li T'ai-po and Li T'ai-pai). Wikipedia tells us that he was 'acclaimed from his own day to the present as a genius and a romantic figure who took traditional poetic forms to new heights'.

He was in the Northern Hemisphere of course, and this sweetly homesick poem is only tenuously about Spring, but it appealed to me anyway. Willows are not indigenous to Australia but they do grow here. In fact there were two in our back yard when I was a child; perhaps that's why I like the poem so much.

Although many of you are now in Autumn (my favourite season) I hope you'll all enjoy this little touch of Spring.

(And which poem will I choose to read at the Equinox? Possibly none of the above. I'm still looking. But if it's one of these it will probably be the Adams,
despite some rather olden-day constructions. It has the most Australian flavour. And it fits the theme of the event, which is 'New Beginnings'. The Mansfield is sweet, but although we do have snow in Australia, not in this part of it.) 

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable. (older poems may be out of copyright)

The images used in this post are all in the Public Domain. The third is 'Li Bai In Stroll' by Liang Kai (1140–1210)


  1. Sigh. Third attempt to leave a comment. Tablet not recognized. I love Katherine Mansfield's poem, with the sun walking in the forest, waking the trees with his golden fingers. It is amazing to think of spring starting there, as Winter strolls in, cheeks puffed, the Westerly scudding grey clouds across the sky like puffballs. The sonnet made me want to write one, and i admire the elegant lines of Li Po. Enjoy your Solstice celebration. I know it will be wonderful.

  2. Really an enjoyable collection! Enjoy your Equinox celebration. Oh how I wish we were welcoming spring here instead of autumn!

  3. So glad I stoppd by before going to sleep. The walking and breathing soul of Spring makes me long for it again. (Tomorrow I will celebrate the Autumn Equinox, and I wrote a tiny sonnet for it.)

  4. what lovely poems from the New Zealander poets. we only think of kiwis and All Blacks and milk.
    Personally, i wish my grasp of Chinese was much better (as it stands, it's lousy), then i can read Li Bai in my language instead of the translation, but that translation is still superb.
    Here at the equator, it's only hot or rainy, but i am looking forward to the Mid-Autumn festival on Monday. :)

  5. And best wishes on your poetry reading, Rosemary. :)

    1. Thank you, but it didn't happen after all! See my comment below.

  6. These are - all of them - lovely. The first two are the kind of pieces I cut my poetic teeth on … way back, at the beginning of time - and thus, they hit a wistful, nostalgic note (though they hold their own, wonderfully well, with more contemporary work). Spring Night In Lo-Yang Hearing A Flute by Li Po, is exquisite - stunning lines that take your breath away … and stay. An awesome share, here, Rosemary!

  7. Glad you all enjoyed. Ha, having decided on both Mansfield and Adams plus a very shirt piece of my own, I managed to leave them all at home! So instead I asked others present to talk about what Spring means to them, which turned out to be a lovely and important time of sharing (reinforcing my belief that really there are no accidents). Then, a woman who did a talk on the meaning of this Equinox included a lovely poem she had found; and meanwhile I promised to email everyone with the ones I had forgotten to bring.


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